And I believe ...


The war is lost. Those who refuse to admit it are doing so at the cost of blood and treasure that will be sacrificed until they have the courage to admit it. Of course, no one is suffering as much are the Iraqis.

I visited the Newseum last week the day before it opened. I fully enjoyed it, no doubt because I teach media history and here, particularly in the newspaper room, were the actual artifacts of my area of study. I was also thrilled to see an actual copy of the only edition of Benjamin Harris' Publick Occurrences, Both Forreign and Domestick, published in 1690 as the very first newspaper in the colonies. Right behind me, in an exhibit on media bias, and behind glass, was a copy of What Liberal Media?, which I admit was something of a thrill. I've never been in a museum before, after all. It detracted only slightly that I was paired with Bernard Goldberg's wretched Bias, but that just demonstrates a commitment to objectivity, for better or worse, that characterizes the U.S. media. According to this post at Mother Jones, the film that is shown about media bias in the Newseum is dominated by Goldberg-like assertions to the point that he asks the question: "What would it look like if Fox News produced a segment about bias in the media?" The argument is tied to the fact that the video is part of an exhibit funded by $10 million from Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Perhaps this is the case. To be fair, I should point out that the Newseum people asked me to sit for an interview but were not willing to come to New York, and I did not want to make a special trip to Washington for it, and so I'm not in it. That said, there are plenty of people in Washington -- even at Media Matters -- who could easily have made the same case.

And all that said, what's wonderful about the Newseum is the fact that journalism is taking account of history, for once -- the word is considered a curse word in the business -- and in doing so, it demonstrates that the history of journalism is the history of everything. We are losing more than we can imagine when we lose our media institutions piece by piece, and I'm glad that schoolchildren will at least be exposed to reasoning as to why journalism matters.

One massive complaint, however: Goldberg's Bias is in the bookstore. What Liberal Media? is not. What in the world is up with that?

The J Street Shuffle:

Spencer Ackerman, writing for The Washington Independent, here, covers the launch of J Street, the new pro-peace, pro-Israel lobby and explains:

Two young, leading liberal Jews -- the former Clinton administration domestic policy adviser Jeremy Ben-Ami and the former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy -- [unveiled] the first-ever political action committee dedicated to promoting political candidates in the United States who support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Known as the J Street Project, the effort intends to raise millions of dollars even at this late date in the 2008 election cycle.

It has an even grander ambition: to reframe the terms of the debate over what it means for America to support Israel, and recast them in a progressive direction. Currently, support for Israel is often seen as backing Israeli militarism against its Arab adversaries; liberal Jews believe that the only lasting security for an Israeli democracy is through a negotiated peace. But "our side gets cowed into silence," said Ben-Ami, a former policy director for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. "They're afraid to say, 'No, we are more pro-Israel than you, our path is better."

That side is, in Ben-Ami's telling, the "substantial group" of American Jews who identify as liberal -- and who identify with the Jewish state. Their contention is that after 40 years of Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, and the subsequent demographic threat to Jewish democracy posed by the population growth rate among Palestinians who live under Israeli control, the real threat to Israel is not the creation of a Palestinian state, but its absence.

According to this new group, the proper role for Washington is to broker actively the birth of an independent Palestine and settle the conflict -- something it identifies as a first-order national interest for a U.S. in the war on terrorism. The Israeli occupation of Palestine, supported by the United States, is regularly cited as a catalytic driver of anti-Americanism throughout the Middle East, exploited by jihadist demagogues for radicalization and terrorist recruitment.

An irony of the American-Israeli relationship is that, while J Street's perspective is controversial in the U.S., it commands a good deal of support in Israel. "We've been dealing with this in Israel since the late 80s and the 90s, from [assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin to the Kadima phenomenon," said Levy, who negotiated peace accords for multiple left-wing Israeli governments. "If you understand security only as the war on terror and you're not dealing with the occupation, you'll never solve the problem. That fundamental change [in perspective] never took place here. We want to be a catalyst in closing that gap."

According to J Street's mission statement, the organization "represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own -- two states living side-by-side in peace and security. We believe ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians and the region as a whole."


J Street's founding principles include a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; an "enduring relationship between the U.S. and Israel that promotes their common interests" and that recognizes "Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people;" a multilateral approach to U.S. policy-making in the Middle East; and the negotiated creation of a "viable Palestinian state." Its advisory council includes prominent American Jewish political, business, religious, academic, media and cultural leaders, including Stride-Rite corporation founder Arnold Hiatt, ex-state department official Morton Halperin and American Jewish University rector Rabbi Elliot Dorff. Additionally, 20 prominent Israelis, including former top officials of the Shin Bet, Mossad and the foreign ministry, have signed a letter supporting J Street.


Levy and Ben-Ami insist that they're not working in opposition to AIPAC specifically. But they feel that the terms of the debate over Israel set, in part, by AIPAC, end up alienating many pro-Israel American Jews. "A not-insignificant constituency says, 'I care about Israel, but wait a minute: I have to support [evangelical conservative pastor] John Hagee, and this administration's crazy neo-con agenda, and Doug Feith, and Ann Coulter, and Fox News? And my alternative to that is being anti-Israel?'" said Levy, who served as a peace negotiator in the Rabin and Barak Israeli governments, as well as an aide to dovish Israeli politician Yossi Beilin.

Levy's contention is that that cohort of liberal American Jews -- a breakaway 45 percent plurality, according to the American Jewish Committee's 2007 study -- instead believe that "My Jewish values and my universal values tell me that Israel should be secure, but doesn't need to be in an occupation" of Palestinian territory.

Disclosure: J Street asked to use my name for its Advisory Council, and I agreed. I plan to write about the organization as critically and independently as I would write about anything else, ever, when the need arises or the mood inspires. You can read more about them and watch a video, here.

Is there anything more ridiculous than wealthy, pampered pundits calling anyone in the entire world "elitist"? The shameless Ms. Dowd writes, "He hasn't pulled a John Kerry and asked for a Philly cheese steak with Swiss yet." This from a woman who gets $400 haircuts and earns millions from her book deals (and the free publicity her relationship with The New York Times provides). I don't know if it's more pathetic that Dowd would write this or that her editors, such as they are, would let it pass or that people think her commentary is a worthwhile model for journalists to emulate. (Or this: "(Just as Dukakis chatted about Belgian endive, Obama chatted about Whole Foods arugula in Iowa.)" Look, anyone with a TV show, or access to a TV show, or a column in the MSM, or who gets to decide who gets any of these things, is by definition "elitist." I teach in a public university and take an hour-long subway home, and I don't pretend not to be one. In fact, I wear the label proudly. How stupid do these people think we are? Do they think it's possible to run a country of 300 million without an elite? Reels the mind...

And yet, despite all the above, this is still kinda funny: "Its namesake co-owner, the conservative-turned-liberal commentator profiled recently in the New York Times as 'Citizen Huff,' Arianna Huffington, was on David Geffen's yacht in Tahiti when the deal went down."

From George Zornick:

Eric noted yesterday that Sen. Joe Lieberman is wondering whether the Democratic nominee for president is a commie. Which reminds me of a recent story about The Day, a Connecticut newspaper that endorsed Lieberman in his 2006 race against Ned Lamont, but just last month rescinded and apologized for the endorsement. The Day supported Lieberman at the time because of "a willingness to seek bipartisan solutions," and when Lieberman permanently attached himself to the right side of the Republican presidential candidate and continued to support an open-ended military commitment to Iraq, the paper issued its mea culpa.

So, the question -- there are nine other newspapers in Connecticut that made similar endorsements of Lieberman against Lamont, who got only four papers in the state. Any other retractions forthcoming?

The scandal du jour on the campaign trail is the revelation that "family recipes" posted in Cindy McCain's section on her husband's campaign website were apparently lifted from the Food Network. To beat back the inexplicable firestorm over ahi-tuna-gate, the campaign has said it was an unpaid intern who posted the recipes.

A much more interesting angle for the press to pursue, instead of coming up with endless permutations of "recipe for scandal" leads, is why an intern apparently has a final editorial voice on the website of the Republican nominee for president. It gets at one of the under-reported stories of the race so far: McCain's significant financial handicap. John Heilemann reported in New York magazine this week that the campaign has just four full-time finance staffers and no significant online fundraising presence. In March, it reportedly raised just $4 million over the Web and through direct mail, and $11 million total (compared with $40 million for Obama, who's still splitting cash with Clinton). "It's a skeleton crew over there," said one strategist in Heilemann's story. Like it or not, one needs money, and a lot of it, to win elections -- and so this is a pretty important story. Certainly more so than possible culinary plagiarism by a candidate's wife.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Beyond your fine comment on the silliness of accusing Obama of elitism and your note about that McCarthyite Joe Lieberman, I am surprised that you didn't mention the biggest question of all. Bill Kristol asked what Obama has accomplished that entitles him to look down on his fellow Americans. I would make two points:

1. What has Bill Kristol accomplished that gives him that right, other than surviving birth?

2. Why, then, did Kristol begin his column by talking about teaching philosophy at an Ivy League school? It would be ironic if Kristol had brains enough to be ironic.

Name: Mike
Hometown: Indy Blue


As a freelance writer I can tell you that editors will not assign stories that are without conflict, preferring to manage, manipulate and build conflict even when there isn't any (not saying there isn't conflict in what Obama said, only that editors are bent on creating conflict in stories, even when it works against what appears to be the truth). So Newsweek's lean on his naivete, etc., is par for the course. Gotta have an angle, even when there isn't one (especially alarming when, to your point, only nameless resources support that angle).

As someone who lives in Indiana, and has for many years, I can tell you he was EXACTLY correct in suggesting that Republicans know far too well how to push hot buttons that distract people from the real issues at hand. Once a year we trot out the issue of gay rights or marriage around here, prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn, etc., and when times get really tough, we throw 'em all together, or better, start decrying immigration as the reason this state (which has one of the country's lowest educational attainment levels) doesn't have any jobs any more. After all, which one will get you elected faster, asking people to fear some faceless demon, or asking them to look in the mirror to address their own shortcomings?

So people around here cling to the issues they know, or think they do, and try to protect what's left of the country they know and love (or think they do anyway).

Keep up the heavy lifting...

Name: Rob Goodwin
Hometown: Boston

Sorry Eric, but I don't think what Obama said should be considered inarguably true. Let's give the gun lovin' Bible thumpers more credit. I would like to think that the rural folk know why the economy sucks. Thay have access to the same awful news coverage that I do. Maybe they love guns because they live in the woods? Maybe they fear God because that's what their parents taught them to do? I think they don't vote Democrat because they're sick of us telling them what their problems are all the time.

Eric replies: Dude, nobody (I know) said it was true of everyone. It's true of some people.

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill, NY

Dear Eric,

I had not seen the New York Times story about Rabbi Rubinstein and his wife, who were killed when their house was struck by lightning. Coincidentally, a similar tragedy struck the family of a Christian pastor in Dutchess County over the weekend.

The son of Reverend and Mrs. Max Faircloth was critically injured in an auto accident last Thursday. On Saturday morning, while the Fairlcloths were staying with their son at Westchester County Medical Center, their house was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

Then, on Tuesday, six teenage students and a teacher from a Christian high school in New Zealand were killed when they were swept away by a raging river during an outing.

So where was God while these things were happening? Too busy helping a favored sports team win a game, perhaps.

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT


The Pope's protestations of distress at the abuse of children by Catholic priests is a total sham.

Cardinal Law, who for many years routinely and knowingly transferred abusive priests from parish to parish in the greater Boston area, has a post of great honor in this Pope's Vatican.

If Law were anyone else, he would be in jail in the United States. If Benedict is sincere, he should insist Law return to this country for trial. Instead, Law stands as the patron saint of pedophiles.

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